Judge dominates O's: 'He's an elite hitter'

May 16th, 2021

In their last series against the Rays, the Yankees scored five total runs but took two of three games due to their stellar pitching, leading DJ LeMahieu to remark that they “swung it just enough to win.”

On Saturday night, they just swung it. hit a two-run single in the first inning, notched his first hit and first RBIs of the season, and continued his domination of the Orioles with a two-run homer in the Yankees’ 8-2 win at Oriole Park.

There was no drop-off from New York’s pitching either, as starter tossed six strong innings, allowing only one run on four hits and two walks in 80 pitches (53 strikes). He struck out at least six batters for the fifth consecutive outing, and he became just the third pitcher to win his first six career starts against the Orioles since they moved to Baltimore prior to the 1954 season (Lee Stange, 1963-64; Tim Hudson, 1999-2003; both first seven starts).

The Yankees knocked the Orioles around to the tune of 13 hits Saturday, with all but one member of the starting lineup contributing at least one. It was the third time this season the Yanks registered 13 or more hits in a game. Their eight runs scored tied a 10-inning victory over Tampa Bay on April 11 for the second-most they have managed this season.

“[Our offense] is coming around. Sometimes it takes a bit to get the guys going," Voit said of the Yankees’ .223 team batting average, which ranks 25th in MLB. “As long as we have a good team approach and everything keeps rolling like it is, that average will skyrocket.”

Saturday’s showing was a glimpse of the two-sided machine the Yankees could be if their underperforming offense could consistently be paired with a pitching staff that entered Saturday with the lowest ERA (3.24) in the American League and the fourth-lowest in the Majors.

Amid the offensive outburst, Judge stood out. After becoming the first player in the Majors to have three multi-homer games this season in Friday’s 5-4 win, the 29-year-old right fielder hit his third home run of the series in the second inning Saturday.

The 385-foot shot to left-center field gave Judge 23 career homers against the Orioles, which are his most versus any opponent. They are also the third-most by any Major League player against a single opponent since 2017, trailing only perennial American League MVP Award contenders Mike Trout (26 HRs vs. Seattle) and J.D. Martinez (23 HRs, also vs. Baltimore).

It’s not only with the long ball that Judge has done damage to the Orioles, however. He entered the day hitting a whopping .526 (10-for-19) with six runs, five homers, nine RBIs and four walks in six games against the O’s this year; he then went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored Saturday.

“MVP,” Voit said of Judge’s performance at the plate in recent days. “I know he went through a little tough draw last week, but it was just a matter of time before he got back on track. He’s showing us what he can be offensively, and obviously he’s a great defender. He’s not missing mistakes, he’s controlling the zone and really making the pitchers make good pitches. It’s fun to watch. I think part of it is I’m giving him a little bit of an advantage hitting in front of him now -- I’m just joking -- but he’s an elite hitter, man.”

While Judge credited his success to staying aggressive and not expanding the strike zone, he was more impressed by the Yankees’ ability to put together a blowout without three of the lineup’s key contributors -- Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks, the latter of whom will be headed to the injured list, according to manager Aaron Boone.

“Take what we got. We got a lot of great guys,” Judge said. “When you get an opportunity, you gotta take it, and I think that’s what some guys are doing. Nights like these when we don’t have our full stack, we gotta stay aggressive and see what happens.

“It’s a chance to get some guys off their feet. Give some bullpen guys a chance to get in there, not as much stress and maybe work on something, or just go out there and get some outs. Every win’s good, but it’s good to get a win like this.”